Yesterday, I used my last two slices of sandwich bread. With no extra time to bake bread, I went with the easiest bread that needs almost no actual prep time. I stuck with the most basic bread formula. Here’s what I did.
• 20 ounces bread flour (about 5 ½ cups)
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp instant yeast
• 13 ½ ounces water
This is detailed so it may take longer to read than to do.
1. Put the mixer bowl on the scale, turn the scale on and measure out the flour. Put the salt on one side of the bowl, the yeast on the other, and give it a quick stir. Reset the scale to zero and pour in the water
2. Using the dough hook of the mixer, run the mixer on “stir” and then on 2 until the flour is all taken up. Increase the speed to 4 for just a couple minutes. Walk away and do one of your other chores for five minutes. Back to the mixer, turn it on to 4 for another couple minutes then let it rest again. Repeat once more. The dough should be all on the dough hook.
3. Put out a big acrylic cutting board, put about a tablespoon of oil (I used olive oil) down and smear it around with one hand. Use your clean hand to detach the dough hook and bring it to the oiled board. With the oiled hand, pull the dough off the hook. Flatten the dough then stretch it from front to back. Do a “letter fold”, bringing the back of the dough to the center and the front over that so the dough is folded in thirds. Turn the dough and repeat.
4. Walk away again for 10 minutes then go back and stretch and fold again. And one more time: rest, fold twice. Now your dough is beautifully developed and you only spent five minutes in between doing other tasks. Put the dough back into the mixer bowl, cover the bowl with plastic and pop it into the refrigerator until tomorrow.
1. Take the dough from the refrigerator and turn it out onto the oiled board. Form the dough into a ball by repeatedly tucking the sides under until the surface is smooth and round. Using a flour wand, sifter or whatever, flour the surface of the dough quite heavily. Put the dough onto a baking sheet — a nonstick pizza pan is great. Cover with your proof cover (mine is a plastic underbed box).
2. Allow the dough to rise, which will take close to 3 hours, because the dough was cold. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. When you see the flour cracking and the loaf is nearly doubled, slash the top in your favorite style. Let it rise another few minutes until you see the slashes opening then into the hot oven.
Bake your bread for about 30 to 35 minutes until a thermometer inserted through the side reads 200 degrees. Remove the loaf onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely before cutting.
The recipe for this bread is actually set by law in France for a baguette. Flour, salt, yeast, water. If a baguette fits your needs better than a fat “country” loaf, you can form the dough into two baguettes or even pistolette rolls. Or a couple pizzas or whatever you need. Rising and baking times are less for smaller breads, of course.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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